The San Francisco Cathedral: Before and After
In its early years, the Russian cathedral in San Francisco had a number of homes, including:
- 3241 Mission St. (the home of a parishioner named Mr. Seculovich)
- 509 Greenwich St.
- 911 Jackson St.
- 1108 Pierce St.
- 829 Greenwich St. (owned by a German Lutheran church)
- 1713 Powell St.
Most of those buildings were occupied for only a few years each, but in the Powell St. location, the cathedral found a long-term home. They took up residence there in 1881, and remained at that address until the 1906 earthquake. The present cathedral was built on Green St., in 1909.
In 1889, the Powell St. cathedral was seriously damaged in a fire, and had to be completely renovated. There were all kinds of conspiracy theories about the cause of the blaze, and many parishioners suspected arson. This took place in the middle of the Bishop Vladimir scandals. I’ll talk about those scandals, and the fire itself, another time. Today, I want to present a rather exciting new discovery — photos of the Powell St. cathedral both before the fire, and after the 1889 renovation.
Here is the “before” shot, taken sometime in the 1880s:
And here is a photo of the cathedral after the renovation. This latter image is from sometime in the 1890s:
The latter photo appears in the 1975 OCA book Orthodox America: 1794-1976, but I don’t know if any Orthodox are aware of the existence of the earlier image. Taken together, these two photos clearly show how dramatic the 1889 renovation was.
UPDATE: I had erroneously said that the Powell Street cathedral was occupied until 1909. In fact, it was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I’ve corrected the above text to indicate this.
In the comments, Fr. Andrew Damick posted a link to another photo of the post-1889 Powell St. cathedral. It appears to be from the back of the church, and it’s such a great shot that I have to post it here:
- Group photo from the 1910 Convention of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society
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- The “Bulgarian Question” and the 1872 Council of Constantinople, Part 2